Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bob Rae

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Other Candidates:
Michael Ignatieff

(Cross-posted to Clear Grit)

As the political veteran of this race, Bob Rae's appeal has been obvious - he is the most experienced of any candidate in the realm of public policy and governance, and at the same time, he is free from the burden of ugly sponsorship mess, at least as free as Michael Ignatieff and Gerard Kennedy. Rae is one of the four candidates with a serious chance of winning the leadership, and given that just a year ago many people dismissed him out of hand as too controversial in Ontario, he has come a long way.

Bob Rae is positioned well, about as well as could be expected. In stark contrast to Ignatieff's gaffe-ridden campaign, Rae's campaign has been absolutely flawless. This is to be expected from a 30-plus-year veteran of the political world; anything less would have been unacceptable. Rae is arguably the only other candidate besides Ignatieff who has a strong base in every region of the country; Stephane Dion has a recognizable base in every region, but not as large as Rae's. Rae is at the top of the not-Ignatieff contenders, and he and his team have been trying to get the idea out that he is the only one who can stop an Ignatieff victory.

They may be right, though many people still question the wisdom of a Rae-led Liberal Party, but many - including myself - underestimated him. Of course, people are starting to wisen up. Arrogant Tories love to dismiss Rae out of hand, citing his term as premier of Ontario as proof that he will be easy to eviscerate in an election, but a lot of Tory insiders and even the rank and file are starting to fear a Bob Rae Liberal party. Remember, the people who hate Rae's Ontario record the most tend to be conservatives and Tory partisans, not exactly the best indicators of the mood of predominantly middle-of-the-road Ontario. And a flawlessly executed campaign is nothing to sneer at.

Of course, critics are quick to point out that the reason Rae has been gaffe-free is because he hasn't actually said anything. It's not an unfair criticism. Rae has essentially been running on his experience in contrast to his main rival and former roommate, who has none. Rae has been choosing his words carefully, trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of Liberals, the latest example being that he "won't oppose" recognizing Quebec as a nation. Carefully chosen words, those are. None of this is too surprising - Rae's campaign is being managed by his brother John Rae, the architect of Jean Chretien's three middle-of-the-road-appeal victories.

There are some significant knocks against Bob Rae. Unlike Ignatieff, Rae was actually scouted to run for the party in 2006 and 2004, and he refused both opportunities. If Rae had run in 2004, he almost certainly would have served in cabinet, thus giving him the Liberal credentials he would have needed to mount a more credible bid. I have no doubt that if Rae had run in 2004, he would be the front-runner today. The fact that he refused two opportunities to run for the party he wants to lead is a bit of a sore point for many Liberals, and understandably so.

What Bob Rae's candidacy comes down to is this: he's an experienced and formidable political veteran who ironically is the least Liberal candidate of the field. Say what you will about Ignatieff, he didn't donate money to NDP candidates in the last election. These are the two factors delegates considering him will have to weigh. How well Rae does will depend on how many delegates are willing to overlook his past, both recent and from the last century.

1 Comments:

At 6:55 AM, Canadian Politico Anonymous RuralOntarioLiberal said:

In hind sight, the larger view of Rae's record in Ontario was that: Of the variables he was in total control of, he did a very admirable job and did it with tremendous compassion, understanding, respect and equally important, through a lens of greater focal length that leaders that were to follow Rae.

During Rae's era, the whole country was in a deep recession (remember the Canada wide 22% interest rates on bank loans, the real-estate market crash in Alberta) and yet Rae managed to save thousands of public service jobs through his ingenuity i.e. the "Social Contract" and the Rae Days. While the public servants did take a small financial hit by way of a few days of lost pay, they were not shoved heartlessly aside to join the ranks of the permanently unemployed. That was Rae's choice, and he chose wisely.

The ruthless reign of Harris that followed Rae compassionate leadership, gutted the Ontario public service. During the Harris Cruel Days, we lost more than a few days of work:

Lives were taken:
Remember the Walkerton tragedy, after water inspection services were privatized, 9 people died of ecoli poisoning;
Or, remember Dudley George, the unarmed protester killed during the reckless handling of a brewing situation on a First Nations Reserve. On November 28, 2005, former Attorney General Charles Harnick testified before the Dudley George inquiry that Harris had shouted "I want the fucking Indians out of the park" at a meeting with Ontario Provincial Police officer Ron Fox, hours before the shooting occurred;

Safety nets destroyed:
During the Harris year, welfare rolls were reduced while the number of homeless and hungry rose steeply. Ever wonder why food banks burst seemed to pop up over night during that period of time?;

Our Medical System gutted... nearly destroyed by Harris and his henchmen. Remember all the hospital closures and the severance packages to the nurses? In fact, the current medical crisis, primarily a nursing and physician shortage, combined with acute shortage of hospital beds is a direct result of the Harris amputations. More than 6000 nurses were given a pink slip by Premier Harris. Those left behind were asked to carry the burden alone. He ridiculed the once noble nursing profession with tasteless and disrespectful remarks and deeds. Does it surprise anyone, that few young people wish to enter the profession today? It will take years, if not decades to recover what was lost during the Harris years.

I could go on ... but you get the drift.

When you consider the choices made, and the damage done by the Premier Mike Harris, Bob Rae starts to looks like the wise and compassionate angel that he was.

While I'm a Dion supporter, and I am also a Rae Supporter...kinda like the Quebecker who is also a Canadian or the Canadian who is also a Quebecker. Either one has my full support.
-------------------
My apologies. What started out to be a short comment to your post on Rae resulted in very lengthy rant.
What I meant to say was ... Yeah, I remember the Rae Days ... fondly!

 

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